Almost 75 percent of Americans have hearts older than their actual age
Your heart may be older than you are. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new tool to measure “heart age”—the age of your heart and blood vessels as a result of your risk factors for heart attack and stroke—based on blood pressure, diabetes, smoking history and body mass index.
The bad news? According to a CDC report, nearly three out of four adults in this country have a heart age older than their actual age (most Americans’ heart age is seven years older than their actual age), putting them at increased risk for heart attacks and stroke. (Find out your own heart age by using this calculator.) For African Americans, who already have a higher heart disease risk, the average heart age is 11 years older than their actual age.
“Half of U.S. men and nearly half of U.S. women have a heart age that’s five or more years older than their chronological age,” said Tom Frieden, M.D., CDC director.
The CDC’s report, which analyzed risk factor data from all 50 states and information from the Framingham Heart Study, also found:
The average adult man has a heart age eight years older than his chronological age. The average woman’s heart is five years older.
On average, heart age surpasses chronological age across all racial and ethnic groups, with the highest gap among blacks.
Excess heart age decreases with increased education and income. This held true for both genders.
Heart age differs geographically, with Southerners having the oldest hearts. Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama have the largest percentage of adults with a heart age five years or more higher their actual age. Utah, Colorado, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts have the lowest percentage.
A heart age significantly higher than your actual age happens, the CDC says, if you smoke, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, eat an unhealthy diet, don’t exercise or are obese. Some factors that put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke are unchangeable, such as aging or a family history of cardiovascular disease. But there are some ways you can turn back the clock on your heart age:
Learn your heart age and how to improve it.
Choose a risk factor or two you’re ready to change, like smoking or high blood pressure, and focus on improving them.
Work with your doctor to make heart healthy choices for a lower heart age.
Take action at any age to lower your heart age and keep it low.